Initial results from Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) following the 10-question referendum that President Rafael Correa put before voters last Saturday suggest support for his proposals among voters, although by a much smaller margin than expected. Data from Ecuador’s CNE on Monday show that “yes” votes range from 43.7 to 49.06 percent, compared with 40.56 to 44.25 percent for “no” votes, with about 40 percent of total votes counted. The margins were particularly close for the most controversial questions about planned banking, judicial and media reforms.
On Saturday night Correa was celebrating victory, after some exit polls indicated voters had approved the proposals by margins of up to 20 percentage points. Even after the latest CNE results were released, Correa reiterated his victory, claiming his government had swept the polls and accusing Ecuador’s opposition groups of manipulating the vote count by withholding vote data “to claim that there is a dead heat.”
Opposition groups, who see the proposals as an attempt by the president to increase his own power, are demanding that the CNE recount the votes, pointing to inconsistencies in the results and the “unprecedented number of records that are not being processed,” especially from provinces with high numbers of voters. However, election observers from the Organization of American States said there was no evidence of fraud having occurred, although they did note weakness in the training of voting officials.
The referendum’s proposed reforms include a plan to limit banks to offering financial services only, prohibiting media companies from owning non-media companies, censorship, and overhauling the judicial system, including by giving the president greater say in judicial appointments, and setting up a panel to regulate media content. Another controversial item was a plan to restrict cockfighting and bullfighting, but those results will depend on local jurisdictions.
Regardless of the final results, which the CNE should have in about a week, opposition groups and some analysts say that Correa’s narrow margin of victory is a sign of his declining popularity, as well as a defeat to his mandate to run the government as he has thus far. Previous referenda—to create a constituent assembly and later approve a new constitution—were approved with 82 and 64 percent of votes, respectively.